Boston Bruins preview

The Bruins will be a much better team this year.

In fact, I can see them coming first in the division. Their only real weakness is in goal, but the rest of the lineup is solid from top to bottom.

Forwards: The team automatically became better even without any offseason moves, as Patrice Bergeron is now healthy after a horrible injury last season. Bergeron is one of the best young talents in the game. He had seven points in 10 games last season, and scored at least 70 the two seasons before that.

In the offseason, they signed Michael Ryder. Many say for too much: $4 million a year for three years. But in a year or two, it will be seen as a steal. Yes, Ryder had a bad year last year. But he scored 30 goals a season the two years before that. If he manages to play on the top line with Marc Savard, he’s a good threat to get 50 goals.

Why would he be a top line player? Simple, Claude Julien is his coach. Julien coached him in junior, in the AHL and gave him his break in the NHL. Ryder responds to him, so look for him to have a huge season.

The other guy to watch out for is Milan Lucic. He stepped up in the playoffs last year, and should have a great year with more confidence because of it.

Defence: Two words: Zdeno Chara. The guy is a beast. He is a physical presence, and makes other coaches have to alter lineups for him. The rest of the defence is solid, but with Chara eating up 27 minutes a night, they don’t have to be spectacular.

Goaltending: The real weakness of the team. Would you want to go into the NHL season with Tim Thomas as your number one goalie? Probably not. He’s more of a stopgap measure anyways, until rookie prospect Tuukka Rask is ready to take over the starting duties.

Pool picks: Patrice Begeron and Michael Ryder can probably be picked up in the third and fourth round. Look for them to have huge years. Chara will also see lots of powerplay ice time, so if you need to draft a defenceman, he’s your guy. Be wary of Phil Kessel. Unless it’s a deep draft, he shouldn’t be selected. He’ll be good for 40 points, but is a year or two away from his breakout season.

Miscellaneous: The best thing the Bruins did in the offseason was to get rid of Glen Murray and his contract. He’s on the downside of his career, and was taking up space better reserved for someone who could, I don’t know, score. His spot will be taken up by a young player who could use the ice time.

Expected finish: First in the northeast division, second in the Eastern conference.

Overall: One of the reasons why they’ll finish higher this season is their record against the Montreal Canadiens. Last season, Montreal won all eight games they played. If they split the series instead, Boston would have finished second in the conference. There’s no way Boston can lose all the games again, and just in case they do, they actually only play six times this season.

This shows that Boston can play against all the other teams. They can play a gritty style, thanks to Chara and Milan Lucic. Or they can play a finesse game, thanks to Savard and Bergeron. They can get involved in a defensive battle, or a donnybrook. They’ll find a way to win.

Look them to surprise quite a few people this season.

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